13 Investigates: Megabus safety records

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13 Investigates took a close look at safety records after Megabus crashed near Greenwood early Tuesday morning. Federal records show the bus operator has a “satisfactory” rating – the highest rating given by safety regulators.

According to records reviewed by 13 Investigates, the Megabus division operating the Atlanta to Chicago trip has not reported a crash in the last two years.

The bus involved in the I-65 crash is one of 54 owned by Megabus Southeast LLC. The company, based in Norcross, Georgia, also reports it employs 133 drivers who drove 6,068,105 miles last year. Megabus Southeast is a subsidiary of Coach USA, which calls itself one of the largest transportation companies in North America.

Federal regulations require all passenger motor coaches to be inspected once a year by a qualified inspector. Federal and local officials may also conduct periodic inspections of buses and drivers.

"All Megabus.com companies have had a DOT audit within the past six months, and all of have been given the highest rating achievable by the DOT, which is satisfactory,” according to a statement sent to Eyewitness News by Coach USA spokesman Sean Hughes.

“The trip had two drivers, which is a normal Megabus safety procedure and above the federal requirement for overnight trips. The drivers signed on at 10 p.m. the night before and were on duty for a total of six-and-a-half hours when the incident occurred.”

Megabus Inspections

Inspectors examined Megabus Southeast buses 84 times in the last 24 months. They found problems serious enough to put buses out of service four times. In July, inspectors cited a brake problem on one bus and improper exhaust issues with another. Inspectors parked buses with inoperative lights in April and November 2013.

Inspectors also pulled drivers out of service twice in the last two years. Records show an Illinois inspector found a driver working past his 15 hour duty limit.

Even with those violations, Megabus Southeast performed much better than the national average on both the vehicle and driver inspections.

FMCSA records also show the Megabus licensing and insurance information is up-to-date.

Post-Crash Investigation

Investigators with the Indiana State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division say it may take a while before they complete their work on Tuesday's crash.

Their initial examination of the bus showed no existing mechanical issues.

Investigators on the scene say the incident began when Logan Thompson, 22, from Columbus, IN, was checking his phone while driving. They say his 2003 Saturn car went off the road and hit the cable barrier in the median. Investigators say the vehicle bounced back across the northbound lanes and stopped facing east with the rear of the car in the right lane.

A witness told police the Megabus hit the rear of the car that was in the driving lane. The impact sent the bus into the median where it also hit the cable barriers and overturned.

State Police officials say once the investigation is complete, they will turn over the information to the Johnson County Prosecutor's office to determine any charges.

The bus was transported to Hix Wrecker.

Look Before You Book

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration encourages travelers to check safety records of motor carriers before booking a trip.

The Look Before You Book website includes a safety checklist and information about how to file a complaint about a passenger bus. Another portion of the site allows users to search safety records by company and vehicle type.